SCENE I. Rome. A public place.
Enter MENENIUS, COMINIUS, SICINIUS, BRUTUS, and others
No, I’ll not go: you hear what he hath said
Which was sometime his general; who loved him
In a most dear particular. He call’d me father:
But what o’ that? Go, you that banish’d him;
A mile before his tent fall down, and knee
The way into his mercy: nay, if he coy’d
To hear Cominius speak, I’ll keep at home.
Yet one time he did call me by my name:
I urged our old acquaintance, and the drops
That we have bled together. Coriolanus
He would not answer to: forbad all names;
He was a kind of nothing, titleless,
Till he had forged himself a name o’ the fire
Of burning Rome.
I offer’d to awaken his regard
For’s private friends: his answer to me was,
He could not stay to pick them in a pile
Of noisome musty chaff: he said ’twas folly,
For one poor grain or two, to leave unburnt,
And still to nose the offence.
For one poor grain or two!
I am one of those; his mother, wife, his child,
And this brave fellow too, we are the grains:
You are the musty chaff; and you are smelt
Above the moon: we must be burnt for you.
Nay, pray, be patient: if you refuse your aid
In this so never-needed help, yet do not
Upbraid’s with our distress. But, sure, if you
Would be your country’s pleader, your good tongue,
More than the instant army we can make,
Might stop our countryman.
I’ll undertake ‘t:
I think he’ll hear me. Yet, to bite his lip
And hum at good Cominius, much unhearts me.
He was not taken well; he had not dined:
The veins unfill’d, our blood is cold, and then
We pout upon the morning, are unapt
To give or to forgive; but when we have stuff’d
These and these conveyances of our blood
With wine and feeding, we have suppler souls
Than in our priest-like fasts: therefore I’ll watch him
Till he be dieted to my request,
And then I’ll set upon him.
I tell you, he does sit in gold, his eye
Red as ‘twould burn Rome; and his injury
The gaoler to his pity. I kneel’d before him;
‘Twas very faintly he said ‘Rise;’ dismiss’d me
Thus, with his speechless hand: what he would do,
He sent in writing after me; what he would not,
Bound with an oath to yield to his conditions:
So that all hope is vain.
Unless his noble mother, and his wife;
Who, as I hear, mean to solicit him
For mercy to his country. Therefore, let’s hence,
And with our fair entreaties haste them on.
SCENE II. Entrance of the Volscian camp before Rome.
I tell thee, fellow,
The general is my lover: I have been
The book of his good acts, whence men have read
His name unparallel’d, haply amplified;
For I have ever verified my friends,
Of whom he’s chief, with all the size that verity
Would without lapsing suffer: nay, sometimes,
Like to a bowl upon a subtle ground,
I have tumbled past the throw; and in his praise
Have almost stamp’d the leasing: therefore, fellow,
I must have leave to pass.
Then you should hate Rome, as he does. Can you,
when you have pushed out your gates the very
defender of them, and, in a violent popular
ignorance, given your enemy your shield, think to
front his revenges with the easy groans of old
women, the virginal palms of your daughters, or with
the palsied intercession of such a decayed dotant as
you seem to be? Can you think to blow out the
intended fire your city is ready to flame in, with
such weak breath as this? No, you are deceived;
therefore, back to Rome, and prepare for your
execution: you are condemned, our general has sworn
you out of reprieve and pardon.
Now, you companion, I’ll say an errand for you:
You shall know now that I am in estimation; you shall
perceive that a Jack guardant cannot office me from
my son Coriolanus: guess, but by my entertainment
with him, if thou standest not i’ the state of
hanging, or of some death more long in
spectatorship, and crueller in suffering; behold now
presently, and swoon for what’s to come upon thee.
The glorious gods sit in hourly synod about thy
particular prosperity, and love thee no worse than
thy old father Menenius does! O my son, my son!
thou art preparing fire for us; look thee, here’s
water to quench it. I was hardly moved to come to
thee; but being assured none but myself could move
thee, I have been blown out of your gates with
sighs; and conjure thee to pardon Rome, and thy
petitionary countrymen. The good gods assuage thy
wrath, and turn the dregs of it upon this varlet
here,–this, who, like a block, hath denied my
access to thee.
Wife, mother, child, I know not. My affairs
Are servanted to others: though I owe
My revenge properly, my remission lies
In Volscian breasts. That we have been familiar,
Ingrate forgetfulness shall poison, rather
Than pity note how much. Therefore, be gone.
Mine ears against your suits are stronger than
Your gates against my force. Yet, for I loved thee,
Take this along; I writ it for thy sake
Gives a letter
I neither care for the world nor your general: for
such things as you, I can scarce think there’s any,
ye’re so slight. He that hath a will to die by
himself fears it not from another: let your general
do his worst. For you, be that you are, long; and
your misery increase with your age! I say to you,
as I was said to, Away!
SCENE III. The tent of Coriolanus.
Enter CORIOLANUS, AUFIDIUS, and others
This last old man,
Whom with a crack’d heart I have sent to Rome,
Loved me above the measure of a father;
Nay, godded me, indeed. Their latest refuge
Was to send him; for whose old love I have,
Though I show’d sourly to him, once more offer’d
The first conditions, which they did refuse
And cannot now accept; to grace him only
That thought he could do more, a very little
I have yielded to: fresh embassies and suits,
Nor from the state nor private friends, hereafter
Will I lend ear to. Ha! what shout is this?
My wife comes foremost; then the honour’d mould
Wherein this trunk was framed, and in her hand
The grandchild to her blood. But, out, affection!
All bond and privilege of nature, break!
Let it be virtuous to be obstinate.
What is that curt’sy worth? or those doves’ eyes,
Which can make gods forsworn? I melt, and am not
Of stronger earth than others. My mother bows;
As if Olympus to a molehill should
In supplication nod: and my young boy
Hath an aspect of intercession, which
Great nature cries ‘Deny not.’ let the Volsces
Plough Rome and harrow Italy: I’ll never
Be such a gosling to obey instinct, but stand,
As if a man were author of himself
And knew no other kin.
Like a dull actor now,
I have forgot my part, and I am out,
Even to a full disgrace. Best of my flesh,
Forgive my tyranny; but do not say
For that ‘Forgive our Romans.’ O, a kiss
Long as my exile, sweet as my revenge!
Now, by the jealous queen of heaven, that kiss
I carried from thee, dear; and my true lip
Hath virgin’d it e’er since. You gods! I prate,
And the most noble mother of the world
Leave unsaluted: sink, my knee, i’ the earth;
What is this?
Your knees to me? to your corrected son?
Then let the pebbles on the hungry beach
Fillip the stars; then let the mutinous winds
Strike the proud cedars ‘gainst the fiery sun;
Murdering impossibility, to make
What cannot be, slight work.
The god of soldiers,
With the consent of supreme Jove, inform
Thy thoughts with nobleness; that thou mayst prove
To shame unvulnerable, and stick i’ the wars
Like a great sea-mark, standing every flaw,
And saving those that eye thee!
I beseech you, peace:
Or, if you’ld ask, remember this before:
The thing I have forsworn to grant may never
Be held by you denials. Do not bid me
Dismiss my soldiers, or capitulate
Again with Rome’s mechanics: tell me not
Wherein I seem unnatural: desire not
To ally my rages and revenges with
Your colder reasons.
O, no more, no more!
You have said you will not grant us any thing;
For we have nothing else to ask, but that
Which you deny already: yet we will ask;
That, if you fail in our request, the blame
May hang upon your hardness: therefore hear us.
Should we be silent and not speak, our raiment
And state of bodies would bewray what life
We have led since thy exile. Think with thyself
How more unfortunate than all living women
Are we come hither: since that thy sight,
Make our eyes flow with joy, hearts dance
Constrains them weep and shake with fear and sorrow;
Making the mother, wife and child to see
The son, the husband and the father tearing
His country’s bowels out. And to poor we
Thine enmity’s most capital: thou barr’st us
Our prayers to the gods, which is a comfort
That all but we enjoy; for how can we,
Alas, how can we for our country pray.
Whereto we are bound, together with thy victory,
Whereto we are bound? alack, or we must lose
The country, our dear nurse, or else thy person,
Our comfort in the country. We must find
An evident calamity, though we had
Our wish, which side should win: for either thou
Must, as a foreign recreant, be led
With manacles thorough our streets, or else
triumphantly tread on thy country’s ruin,
And bear the palm for having bravely shed
Thy wife and children’s blood. For myself, son,
I purpose not to wait on fortune till
These wars determine: if I cannot persuade thee
Rather to show a noble grace to both parts
Than seek the end of one, thou shalt no sooner
March to assault thy country than to tread–
Trust to’t, thou shalt not–on thy mother’s womb,
That brought thee to this world.
Nay, go not from us thus.
If it were so that our request did tend
To save the Romans, thereby to destroy
The Volsces whom you serve, you might condemn us,
As poisonous of your honour: no; our suit
Is that you reconcile them: while the Volsces
May say ‘This mercy we have show’d;’ the Romans,
‘This we received;’ and each in either side
Give the all-hail to thee and cry ‘Be blest
For making up this peace!’ Thou know’st, great son,
The end of war’s uncertain, but this certain,
That, if thou conquer Rome, the benefit
Which thou shalt thereby reap is such a name,
Whose repetition will be dogg’d with curses;
Whose chronicle thus writ: ‘The man was noble,
But with his last attempt he wiped it out;
Destroy’d his country, and his name remains
To the ensuing age abhorr’d.’ Speak to me, son:
Thou hast affected the fine strains of honour,
To imitate the graces of the gods;
To tear with thunder the wide cheeks o’ the air,
And yet to charge thy sulphur with a bolt
That should but rive an oak. Why dost not speak?
Think’st thou it honourable for a noble man
Still to remember wrongs? Daughter, speak you:
He cares not for your weeping. Speak thou, boy:
Perhaps thy childishness will move him more
Than can our reasons. There’s no man in the world
More bound to ‘s mother; yet here he lets me prate
Like one i’ the stocks. Thou hast never in thy life
Show’d thy dear mother any courtesy,
When she, poor hen, fond of no second brood,
Has cluck’d thee to the wars and safely home,
Loaden with honour. Say my request’s unjust,
And spurn me back: but if it be not so,
Thou art not honest; and the gods will plague thee,
That thou restrain’st from me the duty which
To a mother’s part belongs. He turns away:
Down, ladies; let us shame him with our knees.
To his surname Coriolanus ‘longs more pride
Than pity to our prayers. Down: an end;
This is the last: so we will home to Rome,
And die among our neighbours. Nay, behold ‘s:
This boy, that cannot tell what he would have
But kneels and holds up bands for fellowship,
Does reason our petition with more strength
Than thou hast to deny ‘t. Come, let us go:
This fellow had a Volscian to his mother;
His wife is in Corioli and his child
Like him by chance. Yet give us our dispatch:
I am hush’d until our city be a-fire,
And then I’ll speak a little.
He holds her by the hand, silent
O mother, mother!
What have you done? Behold, the heavens do ope,
The gods look down, and this unnatural scene
They laugh at. O my mother, mother! O!
You have won a happy victory to Rome;
But, for your son,–believe it, O, believe it,
Most dangerously you have with him prevail’d,
If not most mortal to him. But, let it come.
Aufidius, though I cannot make true wars,
I’ll frame convenient peace. Now, good Aufidius,
Were you in my stead, would you have heard
A mother less? or granted less, Aufidius?
I dare be sworn you were:
And, sir, it is no little thing to make
Mine eyes to sweat compassion. But, good sir,
What peace you’ll make, advise me: for my part,
I’ll not to Rome, I’ll back with you; and pray you,
Stand to me in this cause. O mother! wife!
But we will drink together; and you shall bear
A better witness back than words, which we,
On like conditions, will have counter-seal’d.
Come, enter with us. Ladies, you deserve
To have a temple built you: all the swords
In Italy, and her confederate arms,
Could not have made this peace.
SCENE IV. Rome. A public place.
Enter MENENIUS and SICINIUS
If it be possible for you to displace it with your
little finger, there is some hope the ladies of
Rome, especially his mother, may prevail with him.
But I say there is no hope in’t: our throats are
sentenced and stay upon execution.
So did he me: and he no more remembers his mother
now than an eight-year-old horse. The tartness
of his face sours ripe grapes: when he walks, he
moves like an engine, and the ground shrinks before
his treading: he is able to pierce a corslet with
his eye; talks like a knell, and his hum is a
battery. He sits in his state, as a thing made for
Alexander. What he bids be done is finished with
his bidding. He wants nothing of a god but eternity
and a heaven to throne in.
I paint him in the character. Mark what mercy his
mother shall bring from him: there is no more mercy
in him than there is milk in a male tiger; that
shall our poor city find: and all this is long of
Sir, if you’ld save your life, fly to your house:
The plebeians have got your fellow-tribune
And hale him up and down, all swearing, if
The Roman ladies bring not comfort home,
They’ll give him death by inches.
Enter a second Messenger
As certain as I know the sun is fire:
Where have you lurk’d, that you make doubt of it?
Ne’er through an arch so hurried the blown tide,
As the recomforted through the gates. Why, hark you!
Trumpets; hautboys; drums beat; all together
This is good news:
I will go meet the ladies. This Volumnia
Is worth of consuls, senators, patricians,
A city full; of tribunes, such as you,
A sea and land full. You have pray’d well to-day:
This morning for ten thousand of your throats
I’d not have given a doit. Hark, how they joy!
Music still, with shouts
SCENE V. The same. A street near the gate.
Enter two Senators with VOLUMNIA, VIRGILIA, VALERIA, & c. passing over the stage, followed by Patricians and others
Behold our patroness, the life of Rome!
Call all your tribes together, praise the gods,
And make triumphant fires; strew flowers before them:
Unshout the noise that banish’d Marcius,
Repeal him with the welcome of his mother;
Cry ‘Welcome, ladies, welcome!’
SCENE VI. Antium. A public place.
Enter TULLUS AUFIDIUS, with Attendants
Go tell the lords o’ the city I am here:
Deliver them this paper: having read it,
Bid them repair to the market place; where I,
Even in theirs and in the commons’ ears,
Will vouch the truth of it. Him I accuse
The city ports by this hath enter’d and
Intends to appear before the people, hoping
To purge herself with words: dispatch.
Enter three or four Conspirators of AUFIDIUS’ faction
I know it;
And my pretext to strike at him admits
A good construction. I raised him, and I pawn’d
Mine honour for his truth: who being so heighten’d,
He water’d his new plants with dews of flattery,
Seducing so my friends; and, to this end,
He bow’d his nature, never known before
But to be rough, unswayable and free.
That I would have spoke of:
Being banish’d for’t, he came unto my hearth;
Presented to my knife his throat: I took him;
Made him joint-servant with me; gave him way
In all his own desires; nay, let him choose
Out of my files, his projects to accomplish,
My best and freshest men; served his designments
In mine own person; holp to reap the fame
Which he did end all his; and took some pride
To do myself this wrong: till, at the last,
I seem’d his follower, not partner, and
He waged me with his countenance, as if
I had been mercenary.
There was it:
For which my sinews shall be stretch’d upon him.
At a few drops of women’s rheum, which are
As cheap as lies, he sold the blood and labour
Of our great action: therefore shall he die,
And I’ll renew me in his fall. But, hark!
Drums and trumpets sound, with great shouts of the People
Therefore, at your vantage,
Ere he express himself, or move the people
With what he would say, let him feel your sword,
Which we will second. When he lies along,
After your way his tale pronounced shall bury
His reasons with his body.
And grieve to hear’t.
What faults he made before the last, I think
Might have found easy fines: but there to end
Where he was to begin and give away
The benefit of our levies, answering us
With our own charge, making a treaty where
There was a yielding,–this admits no excuse.
Hail, lords! I am return’d your soldier,
No more infected with my country’s love
Than when I parted hence, but still subsisting
Under your great command. You are to know
That prosperously I have attempted and
With bloody passage led your wars even to
The gates of Rome. Our spoils we have brought home
Do more than counterpoise a full third part
The charges of the action. We have made peace
With no less honour to the Antiates
Than shame to the Romans: and we here deliver,
Subscribed by the consuls and patricians,
Together with the seal o’ the senate, what
We have compounded on.
Ay, Marcius, Caius Marcius: dost thou think
I’ll grace thee with that robbery, thy stol’n name
Coriolanus in Corioli?
You lords and heads o’ the state, perfidiously
He has betray’d your business, and given up,
For certain drops of salt, your city Rome,
I say ‘your city,’ to his wife and mother;
Breaking his oath and resolution like
A twist of rotten silk, never admitting
Counsel o’ the war, but at his nurse’s tears
He whined and roar’d away your victory,
That pages blush’d at him and men of heart
Look’d wondering each at other.
Measureless liar, thou hast made my heart
Too great for what contains it. Boy! O slave!
Pardon me, lords, ’tis the first time that ever
I was forced to scold. Your judgments, my grave lords,
Must give this cur the lie: and his own notion–
Who wears my stripes impress’d upon him; that
Must bear my beating to his grave–shall join
To thrust the lie unto him.
Cut me to pieces, Volsces; men and lads,
Stain all your edges on me. Boy! false hound!
If you have writ your annals true, ’tis there,
That, like an eagle in a dove-cote, I
Flutter’d your Volscians in Corioli:
Alone I did it. Boy!
My lords, when you shall know–as in this rage,
Provoked by him, you cannot–the great danger
Which this man’s life did owe you, you’ll rejoice
That he is thus cut off. Please it your honours
To call me to your senate, I’ll deliver
Myself your loyal servant, or endure
Your heaviest censure.
My rage is gone;
And I am struck with sorrow. Take him up.
Help, three o’ the chiefest soldiers; I’ll be one.
Beat thou the drum, that it speak mournfully:
Trail your steel pikes. Though in this city he
Hath widow’d and unchilded many a one,
Which to this hour bewail the injury,
Yet he shall have a noble memory. Assist.
Exeunt, bearing the body of CORIOLANUS. A dead march sounded